Male Authoritarianism and the Southern Baptists


R. Marie Griffith directs the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis.  Some of you may remember our interview with her in Episode 32 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast. During that interview we talked with Griffith about her recent book Moral Combat: How Sex Divided American Christians and Fractured American Politics.

Over at Religion & Politics, Griffith makes some important links between Southern Baptists, religious authoritarianism, and evangelical support for Donald Trump.  She draws upon her own Southern Baptist upbringing in Chattanooga.

Here is a taste:

Ironically or fittingly enough, Pressler and Patterson, the takeover titans, were themselves taken down by sex scandals of various types. Earlier this year, Pressler’s name hit the national news for disturbing accusations of same-sex sexual misconduct and assault leveled against him; shortly thereafter, Patterson was ousted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary over substantiated charges of damaging sexist behavior against women (from counseling an abused woman to stay with her husband and commenting on the body parts of young women to mishandling rape reports). That the architects of the “wives submit graciously” addition to the edifice of Baptist theology turned out to be men tainted by sexual misbehavior and chauvinism shocked many but could hardly surprise. As more sexual abuse scandals come to light, we’re getting a sad lesson in the ways that some respected leaders have ignored, neglected, and covered up injurious and even criminal behavior against vulnerable church members.

If that sounds like a plot from a movie, this is unfortunately not fiction, and the calculated strategy for retaining power regardless of fairness or due process has persisted in the denomination to this day. That the leaders of a tradition long known for touting its tolerance of independent thought within the wide bounds of the Bible became so thoroughly intolerant, not only of difference of opinion but of mere questioning and debate, has been a painful pill for many cradle Baptists to swallow. Untold numbers of people in the pews who have been perturbed by the machinations of denominational leaders and dismayed by the church’s patriarchal entrenchment have left the church for more democratic, egalitarian climes, even as many of those remaining have apparently grown comfortable with its top-down dogmatism. As one Baptist, removed as a trustee from the International Mission Board in 2006 for trying to prevent other trustees from removing some women from leadership there, put it recently: “Southern Baptist pastors are infatuated with and captivated by authoritarianism.”

No wonder so many white evangelicals are infatuated with and captivated by the authoritarian occupying the White House. It’s been a long time coming.

Read the entire piece here.

3 thoughts on “Male Authoritarianism and the Southern Baptists

  1. Sorry, but I can’t quote Bible verses and maybe this is a little off topic but . . .

    In 2020 two big events are occurring. 1. the election of a president and 2. the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment. That was the amendment which gave women the right to vote.

    If women are smart, and I think they are, they will PR this amendment to the hilt and stress how important it is that their voices be heard. After the monumental #MeToo campaign this year, I think they are more than ready to assume a greater role in our society and our government.


  2. What is being said here is very true. It is a very short step from the “touch not the Lord’s anointed” view of never questioning church leadership to the Romans 13 interpretation that says to never question the governing state authorities who were put there by God (well, unless the governing authorities belong to the OTHER party, in which case all bets are seemingly off . . . )

    Many (not all, but many) evangelicals have been prepped at church to accept authoritarian leadership and to support it unconditionally, under the principle that it is God’s will.


  3. In a bit of synchronicity, last Saturday’s “Saturday Ramblings” over at Internet Monk asked their readers about their view on The Handmaid’s Tale.


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